A protest against the criminalisation of cannabis attracted a small crowd outside Tauranga police station on Saturday afternoon.

The Stop the Arrests demonstration was one of 26 at police stations around the country calling for cannabis law reform, particularly for medicinal purposes.

Organisers called for an immediate freeze on cannabis arrests, prosecutions and ongoing investigations into cannabis offending.

At 4.20pm - an iconic time in cannabis culture - one of the protesters lit up a joint and was quickly taken inside the station by one of the two police officers monitoring the protest.


The group of 16 people gathered outside Tauranga police station had varied reasons for being there.

Glenn Grayston, a Tauranga organiser, said it was a gathering of like-minded souls with the number one rule that police were to be treated with respect at all times.

Mr Grayston was frustrated by the laws around the use of medicinal cannabis.

He took care of his 95-year-old father who, before dying last month, was crippled with arthritic pain in the last few years of his life.

The doctors prescribed conventional pain killers but through research Mr Grayston found stories of people with similar pain who had been helped by cannabis oil.

"I imported some from the United States and it certainly improved the quality of dad's life in his last six months. It wasn't a miracle cure or anything but he certainly complained a lot less and looked forward to his daily dose of cannabis oil."

The protest was not against police for taking action against cannabis users, "they are just doing their job" Mr Grayston said.

"It's up to politicians to get organised and change the law.

"The protests are about getting politicians to see there is significant public opinion so they have to act and do something about it," Mr Grayston said.

One local was protesting to support decriminalising cannabis, for medicinal use among other things. He said many other country's are leading the way towards a normal society were cannabis is acceptable.

Another protester said a lot of people with health issues could not afford expensive drugs but cannabis grew for free.

"But the Government isn't letting us use it," he said.

Another protester shared his story of giving his sick mother-in-law cannabis oil, saying he would have gladly gone to jail for it as long as she felt less pain.

A police spokeswoman said police had been in communication with the protesters before the event.

Two police officers were monitoring the protest, but refused to give an opinion on the decriminalisation of cannabis, one saying they were only there to ensure the protest was peaceful and safe.

"Police respect people's right to lawful protest," a spokeswoman said, but police could not comment on the case being advocated by protesters.

"The role of police is to enforce the law and the police approach to cannabis has not changed. Officers do however have discretion on how they deal with a range of matters, including cannabis offences, on a case by case basis."

An article recently in the Bay of Plenty Times reported the number of people charged with cannabis offences had fallen 60 per cent in the past six years.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the drop in charges was because police had "almost de facto decriminalised cannabis" possession and were more likely to issue warnings for low-level drug offending, which do not appear on an individual's criminal record.

Tauranga Stop the Arrests
• The nationwide protests were kick-started by Nelson woman Rose Renton, whose 19-year-old son died last year after her family petitioned the Government to allow him to be treated with medicinal cannabis oil.
• Alex Renton sparked a national debate about medicinal cannabis after treatment for his mysterious seizures included groundbreaking use of medicinal cannabis oil.